The Sweet Synergy Between Simple Living And Saving Money

What can you stop doing, stop needing, and stop buying? As I progress in my journey of lifelong frugality, I’ve come to realize that one of the things I value most about this lifestyle is the simplicity it delivers.

I’ve learned that in many instances, I’m able to simultaneously save money and simplify my life. This gives me more time, less stress, and a more genuine appreciation for the small wonders of my daily routine. Oh and hey! I save tons of money in the process.

Need to Simplify? Simply Buy More Stuff!

Our consumer culture also touts a way to achieve simplicity: buy more convenience products and/or services! Spending money will solve all your troubles! And to a certain extent, that’s actually true. I won’t deny that there are cases where this is born out. For example, car ownership. Owning cars makes my life easier, I can cart my groceries with ease, we can travel around the state, and since there’s no public transit in my small rural town, life without a car here would be rough–and would entail never leaving our property. Thus, this is an instance where spending money and owning more does in fact improve our lives.

Mr. FW hiking our land

But there are countless other examples where buying more only serves to further complicate life. Corporations and advertisements do not encourage doing without… ever. To do without is to deprive oneself and to submit oneself to unnecessary hardships. But I challenge you to question that common assumption.

Will your life really be easier if you take on a car loan? Or will you just have more debt to pay down and more liabilities. Will your life really be easier if you own 15 sets of sheets? Or will you just have to wash, fold, and find a place to store all of those linens. Will your life really be more interesting if it’s devoid of stable, simple routines to follow? Or will every day just feel like a chaotic, hectic sprint.

Simplicity is not bad. It’s also not boring. It’s also decidedly not deprivation. It’s actually a means of liberation. Of removing societal “shoulds” from our to-do lists and instead freeing us to pursue the things we want to–not the things we feel we have to.

Don’t Be Owned By Your Stuff

Our first apartment: a windowless basement (with a free couch) that we made as cheery as possible.

The more we own, the more we have to take care of. This holds true for our possessions as well as the size of our home. In the early days of our marriage, when Mr. FW and I lived in a small basement apartment, all I could think about was how great it would be when we could finally upgrade to a two-bedroom, larger apartment above ground (with actual natural light!).

I took for granted the joys of owning a tiny home. It took us only a few hours to clean the entire place–one bedroom, one bathroom, a kitchen and a living room. We didn’t own much, because not much would fit. And yet, all of our needs were met. It wasn’t until later–after we’d moved to a much larger home–that I reflected on the relative ease of living in limited square footage. Although my life is radically different now–namely, that we have a child and a dog and I have no desire to live in a tiny apartment at present–there was a level of ease involved in the simplicity of small. I only wish I’d been able to appreciate it at the time.

Our Cambridge home (pre-baby!)

And then there’s stuff. Our culture is designed around the idea that we should continually own more. There’s even an entire industry devoted to storing, organizing, and maintaining our material possessions. Owning stuff is exhausting, time-consuming, and expensive–and yet–it’s touted as an end in itself. But buying things doesn’t constitute a hobby and having a lot of material possessions doesn’t make you successful or happy. It just means you have a lot of stuff!

Ponder this: In our culture, people buy material goods they don’t need in order to fill houses that are too big and then feel pressure to move to ever-larger houses in order to continue the cycle. This carousel of consumerism, as I’m wont to label it, goads us into creating new “needs,” which is the essence of lifestyle inflation. Today’s “nice to haves” become tomorrow’s “needs.” And then we must buy more and more to fill the endless ratcheting up in our standard of living to which we’ve subjected ourselves. Question the notion that owning more equals a better life.

Accept The Stage Of Life You’re In

And our current home

This is something I’ve come to fervently embrace as a parent. Militating against your current stage of life is exhausting and expensive. Trying to live up to an ideal–or embody something that’s not possible for you right now–is defeating and draining. Since Mr. FW and I are still relatively new parents–Babywoods is only 14 months old–fully embracing this change in our circumstances has made our lives vastly easier.

For example: rather than chase after Babywoods all day long in an effort to keep her from breaking things or endangering herself in our home, we simply baby-proofed the main rooms of our house where we spend our daylight hours. Babywoods can access her toys and books by herself, cruise around the furniture, and play independently with us nearby. I removed all of our tippy little decorative tables, packed away breakables she could reach, secured existing furniture to the wall, stuck outlet covers in every outlet, and gated off the kitchen, woodstove, bathroom, and front hall. The result is that, while these main rooms are sparse on the furniture and a bit heavy on the toys, our lives are less stressful.

Our current home (this photo is from the summer–before Babywoods was mobile–but you get the general idea)

Our home doesn’t look anything like it did pre-child and we’re fine with that. By embracing that this is our current stage of life, we’ve simplified our days and given ourselves back hours of time. Since Babywoods is wholly safe (and happy) in her play environment, we can keep an eye on her while we do the laundry, clean the kitchen, cook, and write. I got this idea from the book Caring For Infants With Respect, which advocates for providing children with a safe space to explore on their own. Babywoods has the benefit of learning from independent play and Mr. FW and I have the immense benefit of being able to work in the same room while she trundles around. When she needs a parent for a hug or to read a book? We’re right here. We’ve modified and simplified our lives in acknowledgment of this phase.

Another aspect of embracing parenthood is that we don’t try to live the lives we had pre-child. We’ve adapted to Babywoods’ schedule, which is liberating for us all. Rather than trying to keep Babywoods up at night to go to a restaurant, for example, we put her to bed when she’s tired (which is usually circa 6:30pm) and enjoy our quiet adult-only evenings at home.

Babywoods surveys the scene in her baby shades

We are perfectly content with this schedule because it makes our lives easier; plus, we know it’s not forever. It’s also less expensive to not militate against a phase of life. By simplifying things and reducing our stress levels, we simultaneously decrease our need for consumer opiates. In other words, you don’t need to buy things to make yourself feel better when you’ve constructed your life such that you already feel good.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of trying to rush through life in a quest for the next step. When I was single, I just wanted to be married. When I wasn’t pregnant, I just wanted to have kids. When I lived in the city, I just wanted to move to the country. And so, this acceptance isn’t just for parents of small children–it’s for whatever phase of life you find yourself in right now. Finding peace in the present moment is an ongoing effort for me and it’s one of the things I struggle with most (closely followed by my obsession with cleanliness and being a neat-freak… to be tackled in another post, another time).

When I’m able to accept and acknowledge my life exactly as it is, I’m happiest. This doesn’t mean that I’m not alert for opportunities for self-improvement, or planning for the next stage of life, it merely means that I’m actually living my life, rather than wishing time away. Every time I start to wish Babywoods was older, so that we could ____ (fill in the blank), I stop myself and savor the age she’s at.

As a recovering Type A perfectionist, this does not come to me easily. Mr. FW has accused me of wanting to plan out the rest of my entire life via spreadsheets. And in my darkest times, that’s how I feel. I want constant productivity and constant planning. But when I take actual deep breaths, do some yoga, and reflect on the gratitude I have for my life, I realize that I want to live the stage of life I’m in. Because soon enough, it will be over and I don’t want to regret how I spent my time.

Carefully Decide How To Spend Your Time And Energy

I’d rather spend my time doing this

I don’t know about you, but I only have so much mental capacity every day and there are only so many decisions I can make. More importantly, I prefer to funnel my chief creativity into meaningful work (principally my writing) and not into rote tasks (such as what I’m going to wear for the day).

In response to this shared desire, Mr. FW and I created efficiencies and streamlined our routines so that all of our basic, daily tasks are on autopilot: cooking, cleaning, laundry, diaper changes, etc. I don’t want to waste precious mental energy (not to mention time!) searching for my car keys. I’m happy to place them on the key rack every time I enter the house. I don’t want to flail around searching for socks in the morning–I’m happy to fold all the laundry and put it away each week. I enjoy spontaneity, but not in where my car keys are.

The rationale for our approach is several-fold: it’s easier, it saves us money, and it eliminates many a would-be domestic argument. Also, for what it’s worth, we’ve found that both babies and dogs thrive on a predictable, stable routine. It seems to make for a happier, less stressed family all around.

Here are a few examples:

  • We typically do the same chores on the same days each week. Laundry is always on Mondays, the grocery store and a library play group on Wednesdays, we host friends for a play date every Friday, and so on. Thanks to this routine, we can plan ahead for what clothes we’ll wear, what groceries we’ll need, and more. This regulation takes the effort out of our planning.
  • We go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This ensures we get plenty of sleep and allows Babywoods to go to bed when she’s tired and to wake up naturally (which coincidentally, is pretty much the same time every day). There’s no hectic racing around in the evenings or the mornings because we follow the same schedule whether it’s a Saturday or a Tuesday.
  • We have a clear division of labor. Mr. FW always cooks, I always clean, and so on right down to who takes Babywoods up for naps.
  • We follow essentially the same routine every day. For example in the mornings, Mr. FW gets Babywoods out of her crib, then he makes breakfast, takes out Frugal Hound, and builds a fire in the wood stove while I take a shower and Babywoods plays. We don’t have to discuss who will do what or who should get the baby or who ought to cook–it’s pre-determined and agreed upon.
  • We pick-up the house every day. We don’t own a ton, so this isn’t too challenging, but we re-set the house each evening so that we wake up to an organized environment every morning. We never fumble around looking for snowsuits or sippy cups because they’re all put back in the same place each day.

My laundry drying in the breeze last summer

Please do not think for a moment that we are perfect–quite the contrary, in fact. The only reason we’ve come around to this schedule and chore division is that we had several rocky years early on in our marriage of constantly arguing over who would do what. We’re talking daily fights over sweeping and trash take-out. Recognizing that we both thrive on pre-ordained expectations, we finally came around to this type of regimentation.

We’ve also developed a habit of expressing gratitude to each other for performing these tasks. I thank Mr. FW every morning for the chores he’s done, and he always thanks me for his clean clothes. We try to acknowledge one another’s contributions to running our little family, which means a lot to me.

This routine-oriented, time-saving approach also saves us money, primarily because it’s an extension of the planning ahead mentality I discussed last week. For example, since I go to the grocery store on the same day every week, we’re never going to run out of food and suddenly need to order take-out. Since we all eat the same thing for breakfast every day, Mr. FW doesn’t have to think about the cost per serving of what he’s making–he already knows it’s optimized for frugality. Once you hit that nexus of simple and frugal, your life is easier and you’re spending less money.

Just Don’t Do It (aka Ingrain Simplicity Into Your Life)

These two play together so well!

There’s also a class of stuff that I’ve simply stopped doing for reasons of both cost and simplicity. Wearing makeup is a prime example. A few years ago, after we’d embraced extreme frugality, I was in a panic in my bathroom. I was running out of make-up! How was I going to re-stock without spending money??? I’d always bought cheap drugstore brands, but it was still money I didn’t want to spend. I spent a few weeks researching coupons, trying to figure out how to cobble together a cheap makeup bag.

And then, suddenly, I realized the answer was far more straightforward that I’d let myself believe. I could stop wearing makeup on a daily basis. This would simplify my life in so many ways. Chiefly, I wouldn’t have to spend money on makeup, but I’d also save time in my morning routine of putting makeup on, and my evening routine of taking makeup off.  I also wouldn’t have to carry makeup around with me to touch up my face during the day. Most importantly of all, I could embrace how I look naturally and finally accept that there’s nothing wrong with my appearance and no need to spend money on covering myself up. It’s a small example, but it shifted my mindset. Suddenly I realized that all the effort I was putting into saving money in various different areas could be better utilized by simply not doing these things.

Frugal Hound helps out with the laundry

Another example: I used to meticulously sort our laundry, turn everything inside out, and carefully treat every single possible stain or odor with that spray-on Shout laundry stuff. This meant that doing the laundry took me forever since I also hang most of our clothes up to air dry. One day, seeing me toil, Mr. FW asked me what would happen if I just sort of, you know, threw everything into the washer together?

I was initially horrified and shot daggers at him–after all, I’d spent years doing laundry in this micromanaging, time-consuming manner. Had I really been wrong all these years? Yes, yes I had. Finally (as in two weeks ago) I stopped the madness. I stopped sorting, I stopped turning everything inside out, and I only treat real-and-true major stains. And you know what? Our clothes are 100% fine. I honestly can’t tell a bit of difference. Plus, no more spending on tons of stain spray!

Me cutting Mr. FW’s hair (and yes, it was hard to take this photo)

Next to how we spend our money, how we spend our time is the clearest indication of our priorities and is ultimately what our life will comprise. So I’ve stopped micromanaging my laundry, which means we might all have a few more stains on our clothes, but I have more time to read books to my daughter, write words for people to read, and cuddle with my husband (in our possibly stained sweatpants, because we are just so cool like that).

Ingraining frugal simplicity into our lives takes many forms, but I can’t think of a single example that doesn’t decrease our stress, our outlay of time, and our expenses. Another behavior–or habit–that we adjusted to align with frugality and simplicity are our haircuts. Mr. FW used to have longer hair and I used to have shorter hair. However, his longer hair was more complicated to cut as was my shorter hair.

And so, he switched to a buzz cut, which I think looks better anyway and which is tremendously simple for me to cut. I switched to longer hair, which is tremendously easier for him to cut. We still look great (in my opinion), but we spend nothing on our haircuts (aside from the initial $15 for our Wahl Trimmer and Scissor set six years ago) and a fraction of the time it would take to go to a salon.

If you’re struggling to frugalize or simplify something in your life, consider if you can alter or change that behavior in order to reap long-term time and money savings. Another example? Taking dress shirts to the dry cleaners every week. Terribly expensive and time consuming. The frugal solution? Buy wrinkle-free dress shirts (we founds great ones at Costco), wash them yourself, and hang them to dry.

When In Doubt, Simple It Out

The sunset at my parents’ house

What in your life is adding unneeded clutter, noise, time, and expense? When are you using your energy in ways that aren’t fulfilling to you? What can you simply stop doing and stop needing? This is an ongoing quest for me as I try to create frugal efficiencies in everything I do. Broader society and corporations will tell you that the only way to make your life easier is to buy more stuff and pay for more services. But I think we all know that’s not usually the case.

Frugality mutes the noise of unnecessary desire and consumption and instead focuses us on our priorities.

There exist choices that make life both easier and cheaper. Look for these compounding wins in your everyday routines. Identify where you can streamline and eliminate. Don’t see it as doing without or depriving yourself, rather, view it as liberating and freeing yourself from needless tasks, unnecessary expenses, and unneeded stress.

What have you stopped doing or stopped needing? How has this changed your life?

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101 Responses

  1. I hear you about how you pick up around the house at night to simplify for the next morning, but I’ve actually taken the total opposite approach to simplifying my life lately.

    Some things should just be left out. I would always pack up the vacuum and put it away in the closet, or move toiletries to a cabinet, to make my home look cleaner. But like makeup, that was totally cosmetic! If having something in sight is more useful, either temporarily or permanently, I’ve decided to just let it stay out.

    Now the vacuum cleaner sits in a corner of our living room–we vacuum more often and don’t have to spend the time or effort to put it away!

  2. Mitch says:

    The make-up story is spot on. The best way to simplify or improve the efficiency of anything is to stop doing it.

  3. Businesses don’t like the concept of actual frugality because it means we aren’t buying the latest and greatest stuff from them. 😉

    And hey, you’ll be able to decorate again once Babywoods gets a little older. The house still looks freakin’ gorgeous in its minimal and baby-proofed state. 🙂 I really like your approach to child-rearing. I know helicopter-parenting is the fashion nowadays, but I was allowed to play alone (yet in a supervised fashion) all the time. Parents still need to be able to get stuff done; it doesn’t mean they have to hover over the baby all the time.

    I’m trying to integrate more simplicity into my life and I’m loving it so far! In fact, today is my second day in a row going to work without makeup. Maybe that’s not a big deal to some people, but it definitely is for me! Once I realized the world didn’t end when I went bare-faced, I realized it didn’t matter. And makeup is expensive, anyway. 🙂 I do still have my makeup, but hopefully one day I can get away from feeling like I need to wear it at all.

    I also simplify by cleaning up each day before I leave for work. There is nothing as satisfying as coming home to a mostly-tidy house. 🙂 I do the dishes, sweep, clean the counters, wipe the tables, and make the beds before I leave. It means I can relax when I get home instead of frantically trying to clean up. It’s nice–and forgoing makeup in the morning means I have more time to do these things!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Rock on! I love this: “Once I realized the world didn’t end when I went bare-faced, I realized it didn’t matter.” That is SO true with almost all of these things we think we MUST do, only to discover… they don’t actually matter and no one cares.

  4. Mrs. Barracuda says:

    This is a great post and I always look forward to what you have to say! My husband and I are on the path to FIRE and when we can’t increase revenue, we look to decrease spending and as a bonus, redcuce stress! We’ve already streamlined so much – we too cut our own hair, make every meal at home and only eat out on special occasions, etc. This year, to continue our path to less consumerism and money in our pockets, we cut the cord with cable TV and are relying solely on Netflix for entertainment, and we canceled our lawn care service (which is almost mandatory in terms of keeping up with the Jonses in New York). We did purchase a $10 ladybug shaped leaf scooper from Amazon for our 4 year old so fall cleanup could be a family affair and this first year was a lot of fun!). Please keep posting and I’ll keep reading! Love from NY!

    • Dana says:

      Where in New York are you?
      I am in the upper Hudson valley area and would love to meet more frugal minded people!

      • Mrs. Barracuda says:

        We are in Long Island but Hudson Valley isn’t that far away! What’s your status? My hubby and I have two kids.

  5. Ms. Montana says:

    We have worked to simplify and streamline our routine as much as possible. From what I wear (I stopped trying to coordinate colors, that just never works out!) to how we handle kids toys ( we got rid of half of them, and only leave a few for the kids to play with at a time), to picking up the house every night before the kids get ready for bed. I think being able to lean into your current season is huge. I have 5 little kids, and we have adjusted accordingly. We still do most of the same stuff, travel, hike, go on adventures. But it’s a 2 mile hike verses a 12 mile one. =)

  6. I use Shout stick to treat stains. One of us is very sloppy and when he has a stain on his shirt/pants/etc he pre-treats it and tosses it in the laundry bin. 99% of the time it comes out

    We keep out spaces tidy. we live in an RV (36 feet long) and you have to keep it picked up because it looks messy quickly if you don’t. Also we don’t buy a lot of new things because there’s no place to put it. When we bring a new item home something has to leave!

    • Heather says:

      That is exactly what I do. I keep the stain stick on a shelf by the hamper and if I know I have a spot on my clothes I treat it as soon as I take the garment off and toss it in the hamper. According to the info on the stain stick you can treat a stain up to 7 days before washing it which is perfect since I wash on the same day every week.

  7. We definitely live in a consumers world. Everyday we’re bombarded by companies telling us that our lives are incomplete without their products. I don’t think I could ever live in NYC because the level of advertising there is taken up 100 times. It’s stressful to be constantly bombarded with advertising designed to make your current life feel unsatisfactory.

    Another great point you made is the benefit of routines. We only have the capacity to make so many decisions each day. Spending that capacity decking what to eat for lunch or dinner, what time to get up, which way to drive to work, would completely exhaust you when it came time to make important decisions. Suring the week, I try to put as many things on auto piolet as possible. I eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day, and have some variation to dinner but not much.

  8. Nora says:

    Accepting your life status is one of my biggest challenges. One thing we did this week was switch around our furniture between two rooms. Totally free and looks great like this – it is refreshing and free. Less stuff = less organizing but sometimes its hard to reduce things, especially when I have a coat for the different weather situations of New England.

    Make-up is also one of my favorite simple luxuries. A friend recently started working at a cosmetic company so I can get samples from her. It is still an expense but it makes me happy within my budget.

  9. I just love reading your posts. As a neat-freak, I appreciate your organization and routine! This post honestly centered me. Thank you so much for all your great pointers and your simple-life philosophy. Baby Woods is very lucky to have attentive parents like you!

  10. I truly do admire the fact that you simplified our make-up from your daily life. I have tried and failed. I, too, go with the cheap stuff, but still cannot take the leap. Maybe I’ll try again this year!

    As far as embracing a simpler life, I have come to realize we don’t need the big suburban house to prove our worth. A few years ago I felt differently. I was chasing that square footage and (sadly) validation that we had Made It. Today I love that we decided to stay in our smaller home and woulbt dream of up-sizing. In fact, it’s a big enough struggle to keep it clean as it is; I can’t imagine having an addition 2,000 SF to contend with. No thank you 🙂

    Thanks for continuing to be an inspiration!

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

  11. Great stuff, Frugalwoods!

    I agree with you on keeping it simple and efficient. This is also a reason why I stopped upgrading my electronics because I want to. I don’t need to have the latest and greatest tech, I just need something that works!

  12. Ty says:

    1. Babywoods is adorable!
    2. Simplicity is harder to achieve than I thought. It hasn’t been easy for me to get rid of stuff I already own, but it is easy for me to not buy new stuff. So that’s where I started.
    3. The quote “relentlessly eliminate the BS from your life” kept coming to mind throughout this post.
    4. It’s easy to wish your life away by longing for different stages. Glad to see that you’re not doing so.

  13. Lovely post as always. Not sure if this has occurred to you already, but going without makeup will have such a positive influence on your little girl as she grows up. My mum only wore makeup on special occasions and now I do. I deliberately went make up free on my wedding day, the most special of occasions you could say, because I wanted to be the most ‘me’ I could be. Simplifying is ongoing in my home. We didn’t have the money to just replace stuff as I was growing up, so only threw out when something was at the end of its life. A good attitude in some respects, but we do have too much at present. Life is a journey though, so I try not to be too hard on myself and just keep pushing forwards!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes! Babywoods was another impetus behind me going makeup- free. I want her to know that women are beautiful in their natural state. And, I am VERY impressed you went makeup-free for your wedding! I definitely did not… 😉

      • jill says:

        YAY Sarah and Liz!!!
        Many years ago, in front of her sisters, my aghast mother asked
        if I thougth I was so attractive that I could go without makeup. …Really.
        She was stunned when I told her I thought that I looked just fine and was surprised that she thought her own daughter didn’t.
        I’ve saved a fortune in $ and external grief over the years by not catering to the emonional needy expectations of others.
        I retired at 51…happy and secure in myself and my life choices.

        Never settle for other people’s expectations and desires.

  14. Karen says:

    Never been one for makeup so it has never even crossed my mind to buy it. I keep things pretty simple EXCEPT for hair color. I used to have it done professionally every 6 weeks, wow, does that cost a lot. I haven’t had my hair colored for 4 months, love not going to the salon, love not spending the big $$ for it. But, I am not ready to be gray haired, it makes me feel and look washed out and tired in my opinion. I have been using hair dye (purchased with coupons), and it seems to be keeping things looking similar to hair salon results. At some point I will be ready for a full mane of glorious grey hair , but not at this current stage of life. It’s all a balance isnt it!

    Day 27 of UFC, and going strong, Can’t wait to read about everyone’s wrap up posts. Since I’m not using facebook, how can I find all of the posts about the UFC? Thanks, Karen

    • Jody says:

      I have stopped coloring my hair, although I wear my gray proudly. As a mother and grandmother I feel like I have earned every one of them and when I look in the mirror it just reminds me of the lovely journey my life has taken me on. I hope when you are ready for your own “glorious grey mane” you will feel the same contentment.

      Babywoods in those sunglasses just melted my heart!

  15. JD says:

    I’d never heard of that parenting book, but I always sat the baby on a blanket in the floor of our baby-proofed living room with a couple of toys, a board book, and a sippy cup of water if the baby was old enough to handle a cup, and did housework around the baby or cooked — our kitchen was wide open and next to the living area. I would talk to the baby as I worked and sometimes sing, which always proved vastly amusing to the baby. And we always had a pet, which was built-in fun for baby. Frankly, I don’t know how a parent would manage to get anything done without leaving baby to play (safely and observed!) by herself (we had girls) at times. And, yes, it seemed so simple to me to do it this way.
    While I was staying at home with babies, I actually worked up a little notebook designating chores for certain days, weeks, or months. For instance, cleaning the oven was scheduled twice a year. Cleaning the refrigerator was scheduled quarterly. laundry was once a week, with the exception of diapers (cloth). Mending was once a month. Daily tasks were always things like make beds, wash dishes, pick up the house. It made housework so…. simple!
    I heartily agree that simple is not boring. It really does reduce stress and helps me stay focused, and it really can save some money. Love the article.

  16. Alexandra says:

    Good points all. I’ve been thinking about these concepts applied to child-rearing, as well, lately. There is a lot of pressure/temptation to enroll one’s children in all sorts of activities, sports, and lessons, and my husband and I are discussing how we feel about that stuff. We have a bright and very sweet 2.5-year-old and his daycare sent home a sign-up form for a soccer program for him. He loves his soccer ball, but we decided to hold off because of the $135 fee.

    The larger discussion focused on how these activities seem like they could really take over our family’s life/finances in a few years, and how we’d like to be intentional about how much we allow our children to participate. People have told us that they always thought they’d have more wiggle room financially after they were done paying for daycare ($2000/month for two kids!) but then the activities started adding up and there wasn’t much savings after all. I just can’t stand the thought of this, and of our time being hijacked in the car to and from this stuff.

    I’m quite sure we will be setting limits–only activities that our children truly wants to participate in (nothing forced on them because we feel like they should), only one activity per child per season, only a set amount of money, only within walking distance of our apartment, etc.

    Simplifying with children must be a bit harder because of the emotional element involved, but we must maintain our resolve!

    • Erica says:

      We have A 5 year old and I’m an early childhood teacher so I’ve seen a lot of children attend a lot of activities even before my kid was born. I think the great rare luxury is to find an incredibly skilled and caring adult to spend time with your children. We spend money on activities not because of the activity but when there are really exceptional teachers who will provide important adult relationships for a kid. I always suggest to First observe a session. Occasionally you’ll find incredible teacher. The rest of the time you’ll just get a few ideas that allow you to organize some families and a soccer ball together and plan to meet up and play a half an hour after it ends for free. If in your observation you don’t just get free ideas but find a really exceptional person that’s splurges that is easy to spend on because the exposure for children to a really caring excellent teacher add tremendous value to their lives. Before any class I go observe a bunch of activities. When they tell me they don’t allow observations but will give me a tour of the facilities I gently remind them that I wouldn’t pick a restaurant by taking a tour of the facilities and I want to see how teachers interact with kids. Most of them come around and I find the ones that don’t tend to have frequent hiring turnover which usually means generic teaching that we can pass on.

  17. HeatherLiz says:

    I LOVE this post, because it it something that I have to continue to remember (continually relearn?) in my own life. Creating routines and keeping things simple is the way to go. Every day that I take the few minutes to run through simple routines (setting out the water and oatmeal for breakfast the night before, choosing work clothes and packing a lunch) makes the next day so much smoother, easier, and aligned with my values!

    Your description of your living space reminded me of those days when my two boys (now towering above me) were little. Our large, emptyish living room had a tall, ugly hand-me-down couch right in the middle (perfect for pretending one was climbing Mt. Everest up the back), a cloth 3 x 3 “play house” (perfect for making a reading fort), lots and lots of books and some toys, a bunch of giant homemade pillows on the floor, and a homemade child-size picnic table covered with Legos. It was always a little surprising to visitors (at least those without kids), but it worked so well for us!

  18. Lizzie says:

    Routines! I have less-conscious daily habits that I default to, but they are sadly not very intentional and also don’t serve me or my family particularly well (we just haphazardly get ‘er done, but it’s way less than ideal). I’ve always thought I was bad at living in a routine way…now I’ve realized, I was never properly *taught* how to break my life down that way (’cause I was raised by lovely parents who also didn’t get that instruction as kids…). For me moving forward, that’s a big difference: I know I need to learn skills (and then teach skills) I don’t have. It’ll take practice, which might feel like failure but isn’t at all! Building those skills will make routinized living manageable, rather than the terrible exercise in continual willpower it currently is. It’s a huge motivator to know it will simplify my life, save us money, and allow me to put more of my time & resources where they belong: with my family and our goals.

  19. Mollie says:

    I always love your approach to simplicity, Mrs. FW. So many of us have a hard time appreciating exactly where we’re at because we get stuck looking ahead or backwards. In this respect, I’m happy that the idea of mindfulness has been getting more popular. My husband and I live in an apartment, are saving for a house and currently car-less. While I look forward to being able to make some decisions about our dwelling (some of the stuff in our apartment sucks, and I would love to have the choice to replace!) and having a washing machine, there’s a lot I appreciate about our apartment. I hate cleaning. As you said, apartment = less time/energy cleaning. Since we don’t have a car, we tag team laundry and grocery shopping. Sure, it’ll be nice when these chores don’t take up our weekend and become more “convenient,” but it’s also time we get to spend together that I know I’ll miss.

    My time/energy conundrum is around cooking. I like having homemade bread, pasta sauce, granola bars, yogurt, and a bunch of other things. I truly like them better than the more convenient alternatives, but they take time. For now, I can do it–and I try to be as efficient as I can by making big batches or using recipes that are little work–but I always debate with myself whether it’s sustainable. Time will tell.

    Oh! Since you make your own hummus (I haven’t had good luck with this yet), try making homemade peanut butter. You dump peanuts in the food processor, press on, and let it go for about 5 minutes or until it’s at a consistency you like. That’s it. In the middle, it might look stuck, but you can either stir it a little or let it go–it’ll work itself out. Homemade peanut butter is incredibly yummy. The worst of it is cleaning out the food processor.

    Thanks for sharing how you and Mr. FW have gotten yourself into your current routines! That gives the rest of us some hope. =)

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Good to know re. the peanut butter! Do you put anything else in there with the peanuts? Olive oil or anything? I’m going to have to try this 🙂

      • Tristen says:

        A few tsp of peanut oil or canola oil. So easy and so much better than store bought! I store mine in the fridge and never have problems with it separating or hardening!

        • ks says:

          for 52 ounces costing $9, you can’t beat BJ’s double jars of Smuckers – it would be challenging to purchase the vast amount of peanuts needed to generate this large volume for this price.

      • Mollie says:

        Nope, nothing but roasted peanuts. =)

  20. Caroline says:

    Such a great, thought-provoking post. Unless something has value to you, or somehow helps your life in specific ways, practical or emotional (which totally counts! For one really thrifty lady I know, getting her nails done every fortnight like clockwork is her thing. It’s frivolous, sure, but it’s her thing. Clothing, not. Hair, not really… but nails, with stick on diamante and so on, it’s her thing!), reducing it or cutting it is the key to happiness. We try to do it and to some extent are succeeding, though it’s a work in progress, obviously. Ages ago, I realised I didn’t ”need” a gym membership… because my legs work quite well just, you know, walking or running. Yes, decent footwear and so on is a good idea and it does need replacing, but the saving is huge.

    We prefer to sleep a bit longer in the mornings (2 school age kids, 1 toddler), so… I pack school lunches and get as organised as possible the night before. The boys make sure they have uniforms ready, bags packed, forms signed, and the morning from waking to leaving – without ridiculous rushing – is less than an hour. I know people who ”have to” get up a solid hour to hour and a half earlier… to make lunches, finish stuff, do whatever… crazy!

  21. Dogmom says:

    I gave up on wearing makeup on a regular basis years ago. The big money and time saver for me was hair dye! I was fighting the media frenzy to stay looking as if I was 20. At one point I wanted to go on a vacation to the beach and I was looking at my budget to see where that money could come from. There is was staring back at me in the mirror! If I gave up hair dye I would have vacation money. I also started cutting my own hair.

    • HeatherLiz says:

      Dogmom–I’m waffling about hair color! Having hennaed my hair for years and years (and years), I’m not sure I really know what color it is underneath. I used to enjoy mixing various shades of henna from the natural foods store and seeing what color it turned out–sometimes more orange, auburn, or even purplish tones to the red. But I have grown tired of both the mess and expense. I’m 45 now and definitely salt-and-pepper. I keep stretching the months between hennas further apart; several times I’ve said “that’s it–no more!” and then changed my mind (my older son was quite vocal about thinking I looked much older with the grey coming in). I always admire the women I see with silver streaks though–it can look gorgeous! Are you happy with your decision?

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        My 2 cents is that I love how grey hair looks on women! I think it’s distinguished and elegant. A sign of both confidence and a life well-lived. But that’s just my opinion :)!

        • Mollie says:

          Agreed that grey hair is lovely. However, there’s the conundrum of what to do if you get too grey too early. I’m in my early 30s and wondering how long before all my greys start taking over. So far, still resisting the urge to color for the reasons mentioned by Heather and Dogmom.

  22. Iris says:

    I also attended an in-state school, while living with my parents, and then attended graduate school there – with graduate teaching and research stipends, living the vast majority of that time in cheap graduate housing. No loans for either. And I do mean cheap – the apartment community I (and later with hubby) lived in was supposedly condemned for inadequate wiring some years earlier. I don’t think they fixed it much either – when we once tried to hang a ceiling lamp, the insulation on the existing fixture crumbled in our hands. Knowing what I do about housing codes, I’m guessing that basement apartment you lived in was – er – illegal? Unpermitted? The illegality resides with the owner, not the tenant.

    As for laundry – I’m guessing I’m not quite as meticulous (?) as you were, but we’ve had occasional inadvertent issues with laundry, including a pair of neon pink/orange running shorts that hubby got when he registered for a race, that bled persistently. Fortunately, we also had a batch of red towels at the time that also bled horribly, so those got washed together. The towels were so bad they stained the inside of both the washer and the dryer. Another frugal tip – don’t get red towels! I’ve also found that jeans may be a culprit for some time. Even if you’re shopping at thrift stores or garage sales, you may encounter newish jeans that are being discarded because they don’t fit. I’ve dyed more than a few white things blue-ish that way.

    My frugal laundry tip is to treat stains at the point where you take the clothes off and put them into the laundry pile/basket – yes, that means the person wearing the item should do it, or whoever undresses Babywoods. It doesn’t need to be a laundry product, almost any cleaning product will suffice. I’ve used such things as any spray cleaner without bleach, or dish detergent. Bar soap or liquid hand soap will also work, though the bar soap requires you be at the sink to wet the soap, though you can use the hand soap right out of the pump at the sink. I think I once used hand sanitizer, when we were travelling. I know that Shout has these alarming warnings on their products, that their product can be applied some time before the item is washed, and won’t grow moldy while waiting. I’ve never seen mold grow anyway, except when someone dumped a sodden kitchen towel into the laundry basket and it got covered by other towels.

    One comment on Babywoods and bedtime (though you mentioned naps). We had a pretty firm alternating schedule on which of us put daughter to bed. That let us each take turns getting her ready for bed (bath and jammies) and reading to her at bedtime, and it was so entrenched that when she was a bit older and it was time to head to bed, she’d ask whose turn it was. Whoever’s turn it wasn’t would kiss her goodnight either before she went up to bed, or as soon as she climbed into bed. If one of us was out at her bedtime (rare) we’d just restart the alternation the next night. I think we alternated singing her bedtime songs (not all lullabies, just what kid songs we sang) until she was in high school and going to bed after we did!

  23. Marion B says:

    All this really resonated with me. My son is 5 or 6 months older than Babywoods and it me a while to get to the point of accepting some of the less ideal aspects of this phase. I struggle with keeping clutter to a minimum but it would make life so much easier not to have to be constantly redirecting him away from things I don’t want him getting into just because I haven’t put them away or otherwise dealt with them yet! Luckily my husband is on board with the decluttering as we’re working on it together a little bit at a time.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s wonderful! Total babyproofing is really worth it as it reduces so much stress–I’m not worried if she’s getting into something dangerous and she’s not hearing constant “NO! Don’t touch!”–only occasional 😉

      • Marion B says:

        Yes, my goal is to reduce the constant stream of “No!” All the critical safety-related babyproofing has been done, but he still has the ability to make a big mess by spreading things that don’t have a home all over the house!

  24. Abby says:

    I’ve stopped throwing away leftover food. We have throwback Thursdays which is really a huge smorgasbord of leftovers. I actually plan meals so there is enough leftovers for this fun event. Saves us from 10 to 25 dollars a week.

  25. - N - says:

    Sometimes the truth is hard to find. “Less is more” means nothing until experienced.

    I’m not going to say that my life has been spent being frugal – but much of my life has been spent being simple. I don’t like makeup – I can feel it and it really annoys me. I have owned 3 or 4 lipsticks in my life, and probably as many mascara tubes. I think I have owned 2 powder compacts. Maybe some eye shadow. My fingernails are short and have never had fake nails. The only time I ever bought nail polish was as a birthday present for a friend.

    Another way to be simple is to wear simpler clothes – clothes that are simple are not necessarily icky or unstylish, but more classical.

    Lifestyle, too, can be simple. Routines make life easier because the patterns – as Mrs. Frugalwoods points out – allow for planning. As with the Frugalwoods, my husband and I, do specific chores. He does poop patrol, a lot of the cooking (always on the nights I am scheduled to come home late), empties the dishwasher, vacuums, makes the bed in the morning, takes out the garbage cans, and cleans the kitchen counters. I do the bathrooms, unclutter the house, pay the bills, do the monthly budget, do the dishes, and dust. In between, we do other things, such as internet research or whatever. We used to have loud and screechy arguments early on when chores were not done – and the ultimate fix was that we were assigned chores. It works.

    We also schedule certain activities. Friday morning is bill-paying time about every 2 weeks, groceries are bought on Friday, and chores are done, if possible, on Friday to leave the weekend open. We each do our own laundry.

    After that, life is pretty easy because the things which caused issues in our marriage – and still do at times – are figured out and taken care of in a timely manner. The schedules are not rigid, but known, and while I would like to get everything done at once (“pain before pleasure”), the other half is much more easy-going than I am. Our compromises work as we know where our buttons can be pushed . . . the bed MUST be made when I get home, and early in the morning on days I don’t work, and so on.

  26. Carolyn says:

    Thanks for this. It was a post I really needed to read, especially the segment on accepting the stage of life you’re in. I was conscious of actually exhaling and feeling some of the tension leave my body just reading that part.

  27. Elizabeth says:

    Can I just say that you are a talented writer? You can articulate things that I have been coming to in my own way thanks to your Uber Frugal January challenge. Simplicity is less stuff to do. Now that I am on this challenge, probably coming off of delirium of Christmas with toddlers, I am thinking about how much TIME I spent buying, driving purchases home, thinking about sales and best bargain, returning them, checking credit statement to make sure we got credit, etc. That’s a ton of my most precious resource and for what, really????

    Your challenge has given me breathing room to get stuff done and have more time. I just can’t say enough.

    I came across the idea of FIRE through Mr Money Mustache in late 2013 and we got our financial house in order but we made a lot of money and saved more than 50%. So I gave myself permission to spend a bit here and there more over time. I now am a SAHM and we are shooting for 67% savings rate this year.

    Your articles have really ramped up my thinking in the most profound way. I just cannot say enough! While we are super close to FI (<2 yrs or maybe sooner), me saving a few dollars is not that motivating to me. However, saving time and having true simplicity is actually what I had been craving all along. I just happen to save money.

    For example, this month for UFJ, hubby and I started walking to/from kids school and his work. I would like to downsize from 2 cars to 1 car. What we have both have realized is that we enjoy walking in the winter weather here in central PA. You get to enjoy the season ans savor it. Kids and I get to talk about all the construction equipment and trucks we see (thanks to endless neighbors doing major renovations on their homes bringing forklifts, concrete mixers, flatbeds, etc) right to our school walk. My son is obsessed with these. We can slow down, revel in my kids' joy in seeing this equipment (safely) upclose but it would not have been possible if I was speeding to school every day. I also talk to more of my neighbors now. So wonderful! On the other hand, my husband listens to podcasts that he was complaining he never got to listen to. So his problem solved too and it gives him mental separation of work and home. I also have never exercised this much in my life, consistently.

    Walking, and my newfound interest in it, has prompted me to seek out options for shipping (selling stuff on ebay), picking out preschool, and shopping with my walking zone in mind. We recently opted out of a different Pre-K for my daughter because I would have had to drive versus our very nice one that is walking distance. Would the other one have been perfect? Yes, maybe, but it would have added complexity of driving and then I would have felt guilty. So we made the right decision and went with "pretty darn perfect but 10 min easy walk away".

    In terms of simplicty and doing away with something, hubby and I stopped wearing our wedding rings years ago. I was always so delicate with mine or fidget with it and then spend time looking for it (freaking out too). Did I mention I used to have insurance on that thing too? Now they both sit next to my coffee mugs, coming out on special occcasions.

    By the way, some of your Craigslist furniture has midcentury modern lines (people pay big bucks for those). Pottery Barn even created a whole new store line called West Elm devoted to this now trendy type of furniture. Unfortunately, it makes some used MCM furniture more expensive. Yours looks gorgeous!!!

    Sorry for long note. This was a great article.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you for this, Elizabeth! Never apologize for a long, heartfelt comment :). We love those around here! You touched on something I hadn’t realized until just now: my frugality really has morphed into saving time and stress for me. I’ve already optimized all of my savings–there’s not much work to do there–but there’s always more to simplify in how I use my time and energy. Thank you for bringing that to light for me! And, you are 100% spot on with your love of walking–Mr. FW and I always say that if you want to know and appreciate an area, you must walk it.

    • Bonnie says:

      What a lovely comment, Elizabeth! I like your connection of the time spent preparing to buy something, as part of the “spending process” and one that we can’t get back. Kudos for walking your kids to school and finding the upside for all of you in that. Enjoyed reading your observances!

    • Jennie says:

      Just wanted to say ‘hello’ to Elizabeth, from a fellow Central Pennsylvanian. I agree … winter walking here is lots of fun!

  28. Love the idea of embracing the life phase you’re in. For instance… right now I’m kinda poor. I live in a one-bedroom apartment, my boys with me half the time (they have the bedroom because I don’t want toys all over the living room!).

    BUT having more time (because I’m underemployed at the moment and, hey, it only takes like two and a half minutes to vacuum!) means more time for Movie Night, Pizza and Board Game Night, Sunday Morning Scones, and helping the boys with their homework and Legos. It’s not forever, but it’s for now, and it has advantages.

  29. Shannon says:

    Omg, the pom pom hat and the sunglasses. What a joyful little person!

  30. You’re preaching to the choir – I loved everything about this post!! I know you don’t identify as a minimalist, but you’re beginning to sound an awful lot like one 🙂

    The endless ways in which we overcomplicate our lives as parents never ceases to amaze me. If you’re a fan of Madga Gerber’s writings about respectful parenting and RIE, I highly recommend Janet Lansbury’s work as well. She was a student of Magda’s and is a good resource for applying the respectful approach to modern parenting situations. Her book on toddler discipline has been a lifesaver as my little one (just a few months older than Babywoods) has entered her “testing” phase.

  31. #Wisdom here: “Militating against your current stage of life is exhausting and expensive.” This statement should be posted at the doors of every graduation speech from college all the way down to kindergarten.

    I also love your streamlined daily tasks. Routines can definitely make our lives easier and it seems you’ve successfully accomplished that objective. We are going to work on implementing this in greater detail right away. I’d estimate that about only half of our daily chores are in a routine, something to work out for February – thanks for sharing!

  32. Elizabeth says:

    I love so much about this post. The part that hit home for me the most is not wishing for another stage in your life. I’ve always been guilty of wanting to get to the next stage and have been working on really trying to enjoy the stage I’m at (I have teenagers so sometimes that’s easier said than done!). I feel like that’s the key to happiness. Not wishing your life were different, but appreciating your life as it is today. I live in an area that has a long, cold, and very grey winter. I am a warm, lots of sun kind of person and eventually (when the kids are out of school, etc) am planning on moving south. But in the meantime, I’m here and I want to relish the time that I have here with the stage my kids are in. To embrace the stark beauty of winter so that when I eventually live in a place with mild winters I can remember all those winters I had that I actually embraced and played in, rather than sat around waiting for it to be over.

    And I often go make up free because I usually go to the gym first thing in the morning and then run errands straight from the gym. I think I’m the only one in town who does this but it doesn’t bother me at all! I do like to wear makeup if I’m going out somewhere but otherwise I’m pretty comfortable without it, which is a nice feeling!

  33. Michael Crosby says:

    Just loved this.

    Be happy where I’m at. Can’t tell you the amount of time spent thinking about living somewhere else. It’s a way to be wistful, but I’m pretty damn happy where I live now.

  34. Sherri says:

    This month with the UFM challenge I’ve really been focusing on all that food in the pantry/freezer. We’ve always eaten leftovers, but we’re really focusing on eating what’s already there and making sure we optimize that. Months ago I also took your advice and stopped getting my hair highlighted. I haven’t quite brought myself to having my hubs cut it at home, but I went from appts that cost $120+ to only $30 and I honestly don’t care. It’s definitely darker (and I find those, ahem, gray hairs a lot easier) but c’est la vie. It’s saving us a lot more money and allowing us to focus on the more important things, so it’s an easy trade off. A few months ago I also splurged on a sourdough starter from King Arthur flour and we’ve been making our own sourdough loaves and waffles. The waffle recipe makes a TON, but we cook them all up and throw the leftovers in the freezer, which makes for super fast breakfasts some mornings – we just pop the frozen ones in the toaster to heat them up. And the bread makes the most amazing toast! My favorite way to eat it is avocado toast. I have a piece of sourdough, topped with my favorite guacamole, some bacon, and a fried egg. DELISH!

  35. Elizabeth says:

    Your blog is fantastic. Your writing is engaging, and I’m so excited when you’ve posted something new! The part about accepting where you are is what I have always struggled with. It’s great to set goals and work toward them, but that focus can easily blind you to the gift of now. Having kids definitely brought that struggle to light for me. I’ve slowly been able to get better at stopping the racing thoughts of “if only” or “I can’t wait until…” and appreciate the beauty of where I am right now. My midwife told me about a story called “The Magic Thread” shortly after my second child was born. The gist of the story is do not wish your life away fantasizing about the future that you imagine will be much better than the present. I remind myself of this tale often to temper the nagging feeling that things would be better IF/WHEN _______. Mindfulness is a great place to start when you are trying to simplify because it’s really all about contentment.

  36. There is an old saying in engineering, “Keep It Simple Stupid” or KISS. The point is that the more complicated you make something the harder it is to manage. Complication breeds more complication until something is unmanageable. The same thing happens in your life. Buy a big house means more maintenance. More maintenance means more money and or time to manage that maintenance. More money requires more work. And so on. Same with cars or really any other item. Buying more stuff and placing it in your home makes cleaning more complicated to go one more level. As such buying more stuff is not the key to simplifying, nor is it the key to happiness on financial progress.

  37. Florence says:

    Thanks for another insightful and inspiring post. My SO and I are still working on simplifying our lives, but a recent move helped jump-start the process. Not only were we able to get rid of a ton of our things (mostly clothes, which we donated), we were also able to really examine what we really need. When you move into a mostly-empty space, you can really focus on what the actual essentials are by examining your routines and seeing what you really, REALLY can’t do without.

    That’s the stage we’re at right now, and we feel so much lighter without being burdened with extra stuff. It also has given us a chance to reap the rewards of frugal patience, as you’ve written about before. We were gifted a free (and quite fancy) coffee maker from her coworker before I went out and bought one, and we were offered a free futon from a family friend also before we got around to buying one. Frugal wins come to those who wait 🙂

    Now, appreciating the stage of life we’re at…that gets tough because we both have a tendency to endlessly plan and dream, but we’re working on it! Thanks again for the great post!

  38. Amanda says:

    I’ve been struggling with accepting the phase of life I’m in with regard to time management. At this point, I have a job I love with a LONG commute. Moving isn’t an option and I’ve chosen to keep this job, which is very rewarding and at an organization that doesn’t really have an equivalent closer to home. BUT it means that I have practically no time during the work week to get things done. I’ve been piling all of my chores, fun personal projects, and social engagements into my two weekend days and then getting stressed out when I can’t get it done. So I’ve started following a rule of no more than one social engagement each weekend (and sometimes none). My partner is doing some chores that I previously didn’t want to ask him to do because they’re “my” chores to do. And I’m just learning to accept that there is always next weekend. But goodness is it hard to make that shift in mindset!

  39. Susan says:

    I sell vintage items online, so when I get the urge to shop I hit resale shops,estate sales and garage sales to look for bargains for my business. My best score was an item I bought for a quarter and sold for $40.00. I most always make at least ten times more for an item than I paid for it.

  40. Kate s says:

    What’s the biggest clothing lie? Dry clean only. I’ve been machine washing lined suit jackets and pants for years (button closed and turned inside out) for decades with no ill effects EXCEPT an occasional shifted shoulder pad and MORE SAVINGS, LESS HASSLE dropping off and picking up dry cleaning.

    • Barb says:

      Agree! I buy most of my clothes at thrift stores and wash everything, regardless of the dry clean only tag. Even fine silk and cashmere can be washed if you use cold water and use a delicate cycle or hand wash.

  41. Joe says:

    I think it’s great you’re embracing the present and enjoying your time. That’s hard for a lot of people. I was very unhappy for a long time while I was working and it made a negative impact on my physical and mental health. Now that I’m ER, it’s much easier to accept the present and just enjoy life.
    I don’t know about your rigid scheduling, though. It wouldn’t work for me. 🙂 I like being flexible. Other than that, I’m fully on board with the simple life.

  42. Lynn says:

    Too funny about the laundry! I also dump everything together, even whites, after I pretreat any major stains. Guess what? Everything is fine. I’ve never had colors shift, or clothing shrink. I’m beginning to thing the tag directions are a conspiracy to keep women doing all the laundry.

    • Heather Liz says:

      Ha! I quite agree! I have been doing the laundry this way for years, too. I throw everything in together on cold. Clothes get washed and dried on the delicate cycle, sheets and towels etc. on regular. It works just fine. I did notice though, when my younger son was doing ballet, his t-shirts were not the bright white some other kids were sporting. But you know what? He didn’t mind, and it didn’t matter!

  43. Callie Sabens says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. Adjusting to a toned down life due to my precious newborn and it is hard to be so tied down even to someone so precious. Your writing had me go pick her up for snuggles after a frustrating morning of cluster feedings while laundry and dishes beckoned. Also, thanks for the book recommendation, put in a request from the library.

  44. Linda says:

    I have just used dish detergent as my main stain remover for years. It seems to work just fine.

  45. you and your fam are just a whole different level of cute! i’m not nearly as radically frugal as you in everything but i too did ditch makeup (except on special occasions), but continue to use a face cream i love and consider a must at my age. I cut my husbands hair, but do still have mine cut…BUT, i have short thick hair that must be thinned when it’s cut, so in an effort to economize but not give up something i like (my short hair), i bought thinning shears….now i can go twice as long before i need a true style cut by thinning my hair between cuts! so my point here is if you don’t want to completely give something up, there may be a way to cut back radically….i love your laundry story too…no point to worrying about those stains…you’re the only one that notices anyway!

  46. Anthea says:

    I keep wondering if you have read anything from Marie Kondo http://tidyingup.com/
    I have not embraced the method entirely but it has cut down my spending significantly.
    Everything i consider buying I ask myself ” does this bring me joy” ….90% of the time the answer is no and i leave it in the shop

    I love your work and having just come back from our 2nd trip overseas this year (2016) with no credit card debt and enough cash for the flights for the next trip I credit this blog entirely.
    I stopped buying daily coffee Feb 2016 after finding you and the change in my finances is staggering.
    Thank you
    btw – I spend a lot of money when I travel expensive hotels, trinkets at Tokyo Disney resort etc, I don’t feel like I would be judged here !
    Anthea

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes, I’ve read Marie Kondo’s book and I like a lot of her philosophy–except for the part where she advocates for throwing away things you don’t use. I advocate for donating things you don’t need to charities, friends, or a Buy Nothing group! So happy to have you here, Anthea–and yes, this is a judgment-free zone :)!

  47. Victoria says:

    Love this. I find your blog so inspiring. I’m also guilty of Type A traits and have to battle to enjoy the present. Thank you for making me consider my actions 🙂

  48. Emmy says:

    I wish I could go makeup free but I have horrible skin. I’ve tried not using it for a couple weeks at a time (vacation!) thinking that might even help, but it doesn’t. Oh well. I only cover and conceal not “decorate” or enhance so it’s still cheaper than it would be if I went full-on ‘real housewife’ : )

  49. Katie says:

    Liz, I just love your writing. I am realizing we are so similar. I am writing this while my sick 7 month old baby is sleeping in my chest. Sometimes I wish he was older so we could leave the house more than a few hours at a time, but the rare snuggles this morning reminded me how much I love having a baby! We have one big kitchen/living/dining room combo. We got rid of our dining room table and put a playmat in its place. Now the little guy can see us whether we’re cooking, folding laundry, or sitting on the couch. He is pretty happy to play by himself as long as he can see us.

    I shared this post with my husband. He is naturally a frugal person and on board with our FIRE plan but he hates the words “frugal” and “budget”- I guess they feel limiting to him. We’ve talked a lot about simple living though so thank you for making the connection for us. It’s awesome to know that other new parents have a similar parenting philosophy as us- sometimes I feel like the only one. One of our friends with a 7 month old just posted a picture of their Disney wristbands for their upcoming vacation?!?

    Thanks again for sharing!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hi Katie! I’m so happy to hear from you :). Yes, it is SO tempting to wish these babies were older, so I try everyday to be grateful for the age she’s at (an ongoing mindfulness exercise for me). And rest assured, there are lots of simplicity parents out there (many of them live in Vermont I think 😉 ). Sounds like you’re doing wonderfully with your kiddo!!! You are so correct: Babies want their parents; not Disneyland!

      • SavingCentimes says:

        Just wanted to chime in on your statement that “children want their parents, not Disneyland.” After graduation, I moved to a foreign country and worked part-time as a teacher and part-time a babysitter/nanny. A certain family had nannies taking care of their kids every day of the week, and I was the substitute nanny one day/week. Those children had nannies waking them up and putting them to bed, even on weekends and during vacations. They were not happy about it would be putting it mildly. They had all of the”stuff” you could imagine, plus lessons and lots of vacations, but they would occasionally just lose it after their parents had been gone on business for days, wailing “Mooooommy, Daaaddy!” over and over. It really broke my heart to watch how much it hurt them to never be with their parents, and while I tried not to judge their choices, I promised myself that I would never do that to my own children. Now, even though finances are a bit tighter than they would be if I worked full-time, we consider it invaluable to have me stay at home with the babies and do freelance work in my “free time.” (Talk about accepting the phase of life you’re in!)

  50. Kelly says:

    Been a fan of simple living. The moment I chose that life, I felt like I was gonna have fewer problems and be complacent, and surprisingly, I did. I am glad that I made that decisions and pushed the life I wanted. Having a simple, frugal life has given me a tremendous experience.

  51. Suzanne says:

    You may be interested in Bea Johnson’s website http://www.zerowastehome.com/ and her book Zero Waste Home.
    She isn’t part of the FIRE community but is concerned with waste and all we throw away and blogs about reducing mindless consumerism. She has some recipes in her book for making your own makeup using ingredients like cocoa powder and vitamin E that readers might be interested in. One of the reasons I don’t wear make up is that I don’t support animal testing and so many mainstream companies still use animal testing for their products.

    Bea also makes the point that buying (or finding) secondhand items reduces the amount of packaging that gets thrown away. Think about how much you have kept out of the landfill by not having to deal with packaging materials that often can’t be recycled.

    There are a lot of great tips in her book and blog about optimizing too, organizing shopping trips so that the route is most efficient, creating a compact wardrobe, having experiences with her kids instead of buying them stuff. I have learned a lot and often recommend her to to others. I’d love to hear what you and your readers think.

  52. Tara says:

    Nice post. Quick question, any status update on when your blog will no longer be shortened in RSS feeders or is that a permanent change?

  53. While I don’t live an incredibly frugal life – I’m definitely a big proponent of simple living and driving towards more simplicity. I’ve forgone buying a bigger house, nicer cars etc. Because I know they will add more stress and not bring much more happiness. A simple walk in the woods, it doesn’t get much better than that for me, and that is almost always free.

  54. Leah says:

    We use rags for cleaning and cloth napkins instead of paper towels. People think my way is so much harder. But guess what? I never have to remember to buy paper towels or make a special store run for them or anything like that. We bought a 4 pack when we moved into our place 3 years ago, and I’m still only on perhaps the second roll (we use it when doing something like cooking bacon). The cleaning rags are old cut-up white shirts, so I don’t even have to take those to the thrift store. If I clean something super gross (like cat vomit), I use a small rag then toss it. No worries because I’d already saved it from the landfill plenty of times.

    Little things like that actually make our lives much easier.

    We do want a bigger place, but we’re in a two bedroom with one kid and a second on the way. We should be moving soon *fingers crossed* Looking forward to committing to not buying more to fill that up. We have plenty of stuff (and plenty being stored right now in our free basement storage area that we moved out when we had our first kid). I’m looking forward to a little more space and enough room to declutter. I figure we’ll discover some of that stuff from the basement is stuff we really don’t need anymore

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes to rags and cloth napkins! We do the same! I love my old t-shirt rags–I actually think they work the best–they catch dust really well and wipe baby faces well too :).

  55. kentuckylady717 says:

    I loved today’s blog…and for Molly who wrote about making peanut butter out of peanuts it is the best..I don’t add ANYTHING but peanuts….. I purchased a bag at Sam’s and made almost 3 pints of peanut butter…usually in the stores they add oil and sometimes sugar….mine is just peanuts……..sent one to my son in Pakistan, gave one to my daughter and I used the other….takes just mins. to make it …she stated the hardest job was getting the peanut butter out of the bottom of the jar…there is a small tip for that, after you get what peanut butter you can out of the jar add some milk, you can add some ice cream and some fruit and make a shake or milk and fruit and make a smoothie….there is no clean up then….my blender doesn’t come apart for cleaning….I have a VITAMIX….after using it, you just rinse it out, put a few drops of dish detergent in it add hot water and blend, rinse again well ….and your blender is clean….best blender on the planet 🙂 well worth the money…… it grinds up all the fruit, peelings and all, except you must take out any pit in fruit, like peach, plum,apricot, avocado ……….I chop my cabbage in it for cole slaw…..so easy…..you can even add fresh vegs.and make a hot soup..unbelievable what power that thing has 🙂 I love it…..

    Also have to comment on Iris reading to her kids at bedtime….my youngest granddaughter who is 15, her Dad still reads to her, he is a pastor, and it was always a story from her books, then her Dad & Mom. has prayer every nite with her before she goes to bed,,,,and she loves it and looks forward to it every nite…..and another short thing, she has a cell ph. she does not take it to bed with her, it is left on the kitchen table every nite…..that way she gets no calls from any of her friends late at nite…..and from what we hear they all do it…..but not her and she is an A student,freshman , and a Varsity Cheerleader 🙂 as you can tell we all are proud of her…..aren’t we all proud of our kids , and grandkids 🙂 ?

  56. Frugality and simplicity just aren’t messages that really sell products, so I doubt they’ll ever get the media attention they deserve.

    It’s the kind of thing you need to cultivate on your own. Criticism of a simple life may happen, but building your own ecosystem of positive reinforcement is key to seeing it through.

  57. Mrs. COD says:

    Amen to all of this, but especially your reflections on embracing the stage of your life and your child’s. As a parent, one of my greatest challenges has been enjoying each stage of my kids’ development as it comes, rather than wishing the time away. Sure, lots of tasks would be easier if they were older or more independent, but I’d also miss a ton of the sweet, endearing things about them while they’re little. I try to keep savoring the moments as I can, and don’t feel guilty about the days when I maybe don’t cherish EVERY single moment, ha!

  58. annie says:

    In order to simplify my routine I started buying clothes in mostly solid neutral colors , I avoid stamps and logos as they end up dissolving in my washer and dryer. That took off a huge burden from my early morning routine. I also simplified shoes, will only buy neutrals that go with literally anything such as riding boots and oxfords… My Make up is simple and standard every day and only the shade of my lipstick will vary…have a long way to go make up less but I m wokring on it.. Reading such a post from you gives me strenght to care only for things that truly matter….to enjoy my current state instead of looking forward for the next big thing….

  59. Tracy says:

    What a lovely post. I was really pleased to read that you both say thank you to each other for the things you have done. We have been married for 27 years and this, to us, is second nature. It was only a couple of years ago that we realised that other couples don’t do this on a regular basis, but always seem to be able to moan about things that haven’t been done, particularly when they have an audience! Perhaps frugality and simplicity makes us more grateful for what we have in the way of relationships? One other small thing I have always made a point of doing is to knock and ask if I can come in if my kids have their bedroom door closed. I did this even when they were quite small as I think that everyone needs a little bit of space and privacy. When I mentioned it to my friends they thought I was mad, but I think that it is just respectful and the right thing to do. Now my kids are older they do the same to me and my friends moan that their kids just barge into their room uninvited!

  60. Frugal(ish) from VT says:

    Love this post! I’m actually much better at simplifying than I am at frugalizing (although I still have a solid savings rate). My trajectory was rather the inverse of yours — I grew up in Vermont and moved to Boston/Cambridge. Although I always pictured adulthood to involve home ownership (with associated land & trees), I’ve come to realize the city suits my lifestyle much better, and renting is blissfully simple.

    It’s funny because when people ask “where do you see yourself in [insert #] of years”, all I can think of to say is “oh, you know…here.” Except bilingual and buff by then, obviously 😉

  61. Jennifer says:

    I thought this was an especially good post. I, too, love the way simplicity and frugality tend to work together. Thanks!

  62. brookst says:

    I have always felt like I had to explain (almost apologize) for my frugality (as my family calls it – cheapness) until I watched a documentary called Minimalism and a light bulb came on. I now realize I am not cheap but my happiness does not come from spending money. I get no joy from buying things. When there is a necessity to purchase I can do it on my terms. For me that is buying local to support my community and knowing my purchase doesn’t go against my ethics (ie. sweatshops, products that harm the environment). I love how your site stresses frugal is not about denying but a shift in mindset. That is what I have done and now it is so much easier for me to convey that to others.

  63. It took me years to find balance in my life. You have years on me! Simple is good. How lucky your daughter is to have parents that have their priorities in the right place.

    Love your greyhound. We just adopted a greyhound a month ago. We are in love. A greyt addition to our family!

  64. Regiina says:

    It is really nice to find people who think of life the same way as myself.

  65. Tony says:

    Dude. This is a great article. I couldn’t agree more about not letting possessions own you. It’s more than just a hippie mantra. I was so surprised to find that my happiness and contentment level went up once I downsized and got rid of excess “stuff” that didn’t add to my life but did require something to own it-more space, a migger garage, maintenance packages, tech support, etc.

  66. Ray says:

    I’ve been trying to simplify every aspect of my life for the best part of 3 years. Getting rid of junk I don’t need, furniture, clothes, cleaning the junk drawer in the kitchen etc etc. I’ve even gone as far as wearing the same colour t-shirt each day so I can just do one wash load at the end of the week – simplifying my life and saving money in the process! My wife however tells me I’ve gone too far in the wrong direction. Maybe she’s right 🙂 I don’t like material possessions, I don’t like mess and certainly don’t like clutter.

  67. Brenda says:

    It must be the combination of the photographs of the homestead land and the chorus of “simplicity” that brings to mind the naturalist John Muir. Well over a century ago, Muir noted, “Our crude civilization engenders a multitude of wants, and lawgivers are ever at their wit’s end devising. The hall and the theater and the church have been invented, and compulsory education. Why not add compulsory recreation? Our forefathers forged chains of duty and habit, which bind us notwithstanding our boasted freedom, and we ourselves in desperation add link to link groaning and making medicinal laws for relief. Yet few think of pure rest or of the healing power of Nature.”

    For readers who might know Muir only by the hiking trail named for him, his thoughts and observations are inspiring. From his difficult boyhood in Scotland, to his long walks across America, “The Wilderness World of John Muir” (edited by Edwin W Teale) is a great introduction. It also includes the unforgettable story of “Stickeen,” Muir’s short-term dog companion.

  68. Liz Charpleix says:

    Love the story of Stickeen!
    Having just been disappointed to find a long-time friend (an accountant and tax agent) strenuously espousing the principles of ‘do less with your clients’ work, don’t worry about making it fit with any legal requirements but still charge as if you’d checked and corrected it thoroughly = nice big profit in MY pocket), I’d like to add to your philosophy of simple living: be honest, maintain your integrity, do what’s right. In that direction lies happiness, personal satisfaction, fulfillment and wealth (if it needs to be $ wealth, that will probably come, too, but I’m talking REAL wealth, a la John Muir).

  69. Joanne says:

    I find it extremely easy for me to keep a tidy place all the time. Unfortunately I’ve no choice, I’m the opposite of whatever a hoarder is – a minimalist or “a chucka-awayer” – OCD at its best 🙂

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